The Rangers must look ahead, not back

The All-Ireland dream is over for Mount Leinster Rangers, but all involved with the club will forever remember the past couple of months.

The All-Ireland dream is over for Mount Leinster Rangers, but all involved with the club will forever remember the past couple of months.

Victory in the All-Ireland intermediate club hurling final some years ago gave the players a level of confidence that brought handsome rewards.

Playing in the Kilkenny All-County junior hurling league has also been a major help. Over the past seven years the Carlow side has contested five finals, winning three. That level of success has done wonders for the hurlers of Mount Leinster Rangers.

I can only imagine the tension that was created when the notion of forming the club was first muted. The loss of a club identify is often too much for some people, but the stark reality was that Borris, Rathanna and Ballymurphy were struggling.

The decision to form Mount Leinster Rangers in 1987 was seen as an inspired move long before the team set out on its glorious journey last Autumn. Six Carlow senior hurling titles have been won since 2006, and on current form ’Rangers are still the team to beat in the county.

The club’s first game in the Leinster campaign was in Westmeath. For a long period it looked like it might be their only outing. I recall listening to the game and thinking that neither side would last too long in Leinster. How wrong I was!

The Carlow champions had to dig deep and maybe that was just the type of result they needed to set them up for their next outing against Dublin champions, Ballyboden St Enda’s. With many Dublin players aboard, Ballyboden was strong favourites but they clearly had not expected such a forceful display from Mount Leinster Rangers.

There was little doubt which was the better side at the finish. It may be unfair to call Oulart the Ballagh under achievers, but the truth is that the Wexford side should have at least one Leinster championship in the bag by now.

Nevertheless, they were still strong favourites in the Leinster final. It was the Carlow men who stamped their authority on the final as they swept their opponents aside.

With a first Leinster senior title in the bag, next stop was Newry and a meeting with Loughiel Shamrocks in the All-Ireland semi-final. The Carlow men scaled heights never experienced to reach the Croke Park final on St Patrick’s Day.

At least 15 busses, plus many more from around the county, left Borris and other parts of Carlow on the historic journey to Dublin. I suspect some supporters may never have been in Croke Park before.

The club final was very much a David and Goliath affair. Facing the Carlow men was Portumna (Galway), champions on three previous occasions and fielding a team with household hurling names.

The ’Rangers looked far from overawed during the opening 10 minutes. They looked eager and determined and were profiting from a direct approach.

It was inevitable, though, that Portumna would dominate for some periods. This they did through the industry of the Cannings, Joe and Ollie, plus Damien Hayes. The response from the Carlow mentors was to bring out a couple of attackers to bolster midfield.

It was a flawed tactic which only played into the hands of their opponents. The Leinster champions did not help their cause with a number of wayward clearances and bad passes. A couple of those errors resulted in scores for Portumna.

In the previous three games the Carlow side displayed passion and determination their opponents could not match. Their hurling was also of the highest order.

For whatever reason Mount Leinster Rangers were flat in the final, aside from the opening 10 minutes. The Galway champions are an excellent side, but the current team does not compare to its earlier three championship winning sides. However, what the current side possess in abundance is astuteness in key sectors, evident by their reading of the game and the ruthless efficiency which marked the majority of their scores. The ’Rangers will be disappointed. They know they can play better.

The exploits of 2013 and 2014 will lead to even better days in the coming years.